What coloring in my mid 30s has taught me…

Originally posted at ThirdSpaceWellness.com

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, I’m sure you’ve noticed the coloring books for adults trend. (Note: My husband would like to point out that he’s been coloring way before “the craze.”) Anyway… I’m glad it’s caught on. It’s an incredibly soothing activity. You can either clear your mind as you color or observe your thoughts as they come in. It has provided so much clarity during stressful times.

Coloring has taught me a few things over the years:

  • That coloring between the lines is harder than it sounds
  • That you can live with your mistakes – moving forward rather than scrapping everything and starting over
  • That you can scrap everything and start over
  • That you have to look at a picture up close and then look at it from afar to see it completely
  • That you can plan your approach but you better be ready for some spontaneity
  • That the right tools will make all the difference
  • That creativity lies in all of us
  • That genius ideas can come when you’re busy doing something else

Whether you decide to work on a coloring book or paint a canvas or take up origami, find an activity that allows you to create and focus. You might be surprised about what you’ll learn about yourself or for yourself. And if you’ve tried it, how did you do?

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That time of year…

…When allergies are kicking in… My nose is itchy, my eyes are red and breathing through my nose is a luxury. But you know what? It is a sign of some really beautiful days in the sun to come. Below are some of the things I’m looking forward to:

  1. Cracking crabs and sharing rum buckets on Kent Island
  2. Baseball games and hotdogs
  3. Mussels at Fells Point
  4. An outdoor concert at Wolf Trap
  5. MY BIRTHDAY
  6. Sitting outside on my balcony
  7. Summer veggies (tomatoes!)
  8. Wineries in the afternoon
  9. Hiking/kayaking
  10. Any and all outdoor events/activities

I do my best to mark the arrival of a new season but I am most excited about Spring. Then Summer and even Fall.

How do you welcome the seasons? How do you plan on celebrating the warmer days?

Hawaii Beach

Real life lessons from “The Walking Dead”

1.  Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and he (or she) will step up to the plate every time.

2.  If it is too good to be true, well, it probably is some loon with an aquarium full of heads in his house.

3.  Good people are capable of doing bad things and bad people are capable of doing good things.

4.  Trust your instincts.

5.  Have a posse. It is messy sometimes but it’s the only way you’re gonna make it.

6.  Duct tape is your friend.

7.  Zombies don’t have feelings.

Okay, okay, you could probably learn these things from any zombie apocalypse story. But it is important to be reminded of it now and then. Especially the part about duct tape. That thing is so darn handy.

Getting through the ups and downs

You know when someone says, “I’m sure it’ll be fine” and you lunge at their neck while screaming, “How the hell do you know?”

No? Just me?

I am not a full-time yoga teacher. (It’s a pretty nourishing side gig as far as side gigs go.) But I just don’t have any desire to do it day-in and day-out. I do have a day job – a good one. One I don’t mind coming into even though it occasionally drives me batty. (That’s what yoga is for!)

But, yesterday, I was told that I might lose that job. The contracting company I work for didn’t win the re-bid for the project I am on. So the new company can either replace me with someone else, offer me the job with a significant pay cut or keep everything the same (the ideal situation, of course). As a pragmatist, I am definitely updating my résumé and holding off on major expenses. I am also trying not to freak out.

“What if they cut my pay? What happens to my benefits? My 401k? What if my new supervisors are jerks?”

Uncertainty is a bitch.

But one thing is keeping me from Meltdown City…

A few months ago in one of my yoga books, I came across a Chinese parable. There are many versions of it but all have a very similar gist and it goes like this:

A farmer and his son had a beloved stallion who helped the family earn a living. One day, the horse ran away and their neighbors exclaimed, “Your horse ran away, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few days later, the horse returned home, leading a few wild mares back to the farm as well. The neighbors shouted out, “Your horse has returned, and brought several horses home with him. What great luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

Later that week, the farmer’s son was trying to break one of the mares and she threw him to the ground, breaking his leg. The villagers cried, “Your son broke his leg, what terrible luck!” The farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

A few weeks later, soldiers from the national army marched through town, recruiting all the able-bodied boys for the army. They did not take the farmer’s son, still recovering from his injury. Friends shouted, “Your boy is spared, what tremendous luck!” To which the farmer replied, “Maybe so, maybe not. We’ll see.”

This story is often told when teaching non-attachment. For me, it very clearly conveyed that not all good things are good and not all bad things are bad. It’s best not to get attached to the present situation. I have experienced that some good things have led to bad things and some bad things have resulted in good things. Like when I was happy about being able to get on a crowded elevator in SOHO because I was in a rush and then my elevator ended up being stuck between floors for three hours in 95-degree temperatures… (I no longer run after elevators by the way).

Maybe I’ll lose this job. Maybe I’ll find another job. A better job. Or a worse job that will force me to pursue another line of career, which could lead to who knows what? Fame? Fortune? Glory? For better or for worse, the possibilities are endless!

So I don’t have a panacea to offer you when things aren’t going well. But I am sharing this story with you because it gets me through rough times – especially during times of uncertainty. I hope it helps you as well.

In the meantime I’ll be playing “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” on repeat.

Rainbow

It could have been worse

Right now I am sitting outside on my balcony. It’s a beautiful day. I’m wearing shorts and an old shirt. I have a glass of ice-cold lemonade nearby and my favorite songs are playing. A soft breeze just picked up to remind me to take a deep breath and acknowledge how perfect things are right at this very moment.

Life feels really easy.

It has been far from being a perfect day. In fact, I started the day seeing that someone had hit my car and left without a note… again. While assessing the damage, a person who has made my family and me uncomfortable rode by on his bike and said hello and lingered as if we weren’t one incident away from getting a restraining order against him. After that, I went for a run and felt like I was being chased by all the unpleasant feelings those two events had generated.

So how did I get from this morning’s ugliness to this afternoon’s calm? Well, at first I felt out of control, angry and disappointed. And I thought my day was ruined when I so desperately needed to relax, rest and work quietly. I wanted to salvage the day but didn’t know how until this thought popped into my head, “It could have been worse.” And, boy, did I have enough experiences to know how bad “worse” can be. For example, the damage could have made my car undriveable. Crazy guy could have been wielding a machete. It could have started to rain… And a million other things that could have aggravated the circumstances.

And you know what? That single thought changed the trajectory of my day. I could breathe a little more. I could enjoy this lovely, quiet day and find ease in my body despite this morning’s chaos. This moment of peace is enough to get me through the next few past, present and future unhappy events. Sure, I could use more money, more responsibilities at work, more space at home, less stress on my commute… I’m not happy all the time but more importantly I’m not UNhappy all the time either. It’s true that life is hard. Which is why one of my favorite quotations is by the Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride. He said,

“Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something.”

We can add to our suffering by holding on to pain tightly and relentlessly. But how exactly does that serve us? Sometimes life really sucks (and it certainly doesn’t need our help to make it so) but it doesn’t always and those small (or big) good moments are what’s going to get you through the rough ones. So recognize when things are good as much as we recognize when things are the pits.

There are many ways to find ease in a hard life. And only you have the right tools to make it happen. Only you can allow yourself to find that ease. And your way will look different from someone else’s. For some it’s a long bike ride, for others it’s a good book or movie… Sometimes it is wallowing in the crappiness of it all. We have to be good to ourselves in whatever way that we can. Even if it means loosening up some of the hard and fast rules that govern our lives.

So how do YOU find or create ease in your life?

Balcony

Meditating without even knowing it

Meditation is not as big a mystery as you think it is.

Have you ever said something to yourself over and over again? Maybe under your breath or out loud? Maybe right before a big presentation and you’re telling yourself “I can do this. I can do this.”

Have you ever gone to someplace quiet or took a walk so you can sort out your thoughts? Or to escape your thoughts temporarily?

Have you ever used music to enhance your mood? Whether to cheer yourself up or as a way of expressing your feelings?

Have you ever taken deep breaths to calm yourself down when you’re upset or anxious?

Well, guess what? Those are all ways of meditating.

Meditating Couple

And there are countless of ways to do it. You might not realize that you’re already doing some form of it in your day-to-day life. We picked up these techniques from different people – maybe we saw it in a movie or read it in a book… Regardless, you have been unwittingly meditating to improve your life and get you through stressful times.

This is not to say that you couldn’t learn so much more about meditation. Only that it’s not as inaccessible as you think. You don’t need to be in an ashram, sitting on a cushion, surrounded by incense… It is a tool already found within yourself that you can use at any time.

And imagine this, if you are already benefitting from the little meditating that you are doing, how much more would you gain if you put more time towards practicing or studying meditation?

Need advice on getting started? Check out my post “Meditation: It’s here to cure what ails you.”

Good luck!

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Kevin Labianco.

How to have a good day

We wake up every morning – some days feeling like P-Diddy (couldn’t resist) – not really knowing how our day will go. Prepared for the worst but hoping for the best. Some days unexpectedly exciting things happen and other days cat videos are the highlight. But there are a few things you can do to help yourself along to a good day.

Cat and Egg

  • Give yourself plenty of time to get ready in the morning. Even if it means 10 minutes less of sleep.
  • Wear clothes that make you feel good. Not too tight. Not too loose. Clothes that are just right.
  • If you have a crappy commute to work, expect that it will be crappy and stop fighting it. Put on some music instead or bring a book with you.
  • Make a to-do list. Then attack it. Maybe celebrating every time you check an item off of the list.
  • Get up from your chair and chat up a co-worker about something non-work-related.
  • Play your favorite songs. You know, the one you can’t help but sing along to or tap your foot to.
  • Do something nice for someone. No need to be extravagant. Just a random act of kindness.
  • Drink lots of water. Coffee and soda don’t count.
  • Have lunch away from your desk. (Even if it means sneaking into an empty conference room).
  • Get some sunlight. (Pull your chair right up to that window).
  • Give someone a hug. (Preferably not a stranger on the Metro).
  • Try not to dwell on or rehash unpleasant events from your day or the day before.
  • Read or watch something funny.
  • Tell someone how much you love and appreciate him/her.
  • Do yoga. (Duh)

These are just some suggestions. Maybe an impromptu dance party will dispel cranky thoughts or an ice-cold glass of something. It doesn’t matter. What’s important is that you not get mired in the muck of your day. Break away from your train of thought and give yourself some space to breathe. We don’t have complete control over our day-to-day but since spending our days hiding under our covers isn’t an option, I suggest you try any of the items above.

What do you do to make it a good day?

Photo via Flickr (Creative Commons) by Mar O.olmL.